We hope the Saratoga Opening Week JUMP START did just that to your bankroll as we were able to tip Sweet Loretta in the Grade-3 Schuylerville and discussed the exacta in the Grade-2 Lake George on opening day with the two Chad Browns, Ancient Secret and Elysea’s World. Additionally, Tin Type Gal scratched from the Lake George, but won the Grade-3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth on July 24 after we highly touted her in the Opening Week JUMP START. In the Diana, we started the JUMP START with the winner Dacita and said to not forget Rainha Da Bateria on the bottom of exotic tickets, as she finished third at 28/1 odds resulting in a $1,200 trifecta for $2!
Every week during the Saratoga meet, we will post early in the week a JUMP START on the Graded Stakes coming up in the next week at “The Spa.” This JUMP START will highlight the key probable horses from the nominations. These weekly articles will try to start your week off right when approaching each week at the premiere meet in the United States.
We’ll attempt to not “regurgitate” the Past Performances and go beyond to provide an early analysis of the Graded Stakes fields including: injury and insider news, trainer talk, pace analysis, trip notes from previous races, workout evaluations and links to key replays to evaluate for the big races.
Here’s a look at the key Stakes races from Week 2 at the Spa:
Fri., Jul. 29, Curlin, 3 year olds, 1 & 1/8 miles (Dirt)
With the three-year old fillies headlining opening weekend with Songbird pulling away from Carina Mia in the Grade-1 CCA Oaks, the three-year old males will get their chance to steal the spotlight in week 2 of the Saratoga meet. The non-graded Curlin Stakes on July 29 kicks off the weekend action. The Curlin became a key prep for the Travers when V.E. Day won the Curlin in 2014 and went onto win the Travers in exciting, late closing theatrics at long odds.
Gift Box for trainer Chad Brown headlines the Curlin field this year. After a strong third to end 2015 in the Grade-2 Remsen, Gift Box was thought of as a top possible Kentucky Derby horse for Brown. After missing the Derby trail early in the year with some physical issues, Gift Box returned on May 26 at Belmont to crush a decent allowance field. A key item of note is that Irad Ortiz, Jr. jumps on Gift Box for this spot and Javier Castellano will ride Uncle Vinny after riding Gift Box in all four of his career starts.
Gift Box’s stablemate Connect may be his main competition and may be the main pace presence in the Curlin. After breaking his maiden and impressively beating elders in an allowance on the Belmont Stakes day undercard, Connect is a “now” horse, but stretches out to the farthest distance of his short career (3 career races only).
The horse to play at a price is Swipe for trainer Keith Desormeaux. Bettors may jump off of him after his seventh-place finish in the Grade-3 Dwyer, so it should be very interesting how he is bet here. After running second in the Grade-1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to end 2015, Swipe has had a tumultuous year, where he had physical issues to start the year and got going late in the Grade-3 Lexington in mid-April finishing sixth. Swipe had breathing issues in that race and needed throat surgery. He returned in an allowance at Belmont on June 26 against elders at 6 furlongs to close like a rocket to get third, but faltered in the aforementioned Dwyer.
I caught up with Desormeaux’s assistant trainer Julie Clark last week and she said that there is reason to believe that Swipe just didn’t take to the “Big Sandy” surface in his last two races at Belmont.
“Junior (Alvarado) said in the allowance race, that when he came of the gate, (Swipe) was scrambling and not really getting a hold of the track. When he came around by the quarter-pole, he picked it up and was accelerating. He got a lot out of that race and there were no issues with the throat surgery,” said Clark. “But then in the Dwyer, Kent (Desormeaux) said it was the same thing out of the gate, that he was spinning his wheels and never got a hold of the track, so we’re hoping the change of surfaces is one that he likes and it helps.”
Swipe chased the Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in four straight starts last year as a two-year old getting second place each time, so there is no doubting his class. This may be the time to play Swipe at a price as he looks to rebound coming in third off the layoff.
Majesto comes out of a miserable performance in the Kentucky Derby that is tough to forgive. After placing second in the Grade-1 Florida Derby and having a huge gallop-out where he flew past Nyquist after the finish line, many believed that Majesto could be a value play for trainer Gustavo Delgado in the Derby. After sitting mid-pack in the Derby, he wilted quickly to the back of the field to lose by 36 lengths. His stamina was built up greatly at Gulfstream over the winter by running this 1 & 1/8 mile distance three times, but it may be tough for him to fire against these off a nearly 3-month layoff.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered two in here with Ready Dancer and Uncle Vinny (who was placed the winner via disqualification in the Grade-3 Sanford last year at Saratoga), but Pletcher has said that there is no guarantee that he runs both here. Both also have been entered in the Amsterdam on Saturday so we won’t know until Friday morning when scratches come in where they will run.
Others entered are Dolphus (Rachel Alexandra’s half-brother, who comes in off a 6-month layoff) and Forever d’Oro (half-brother to graded stakes winners Forever Unbridled and Unbridled Forever, who disappointed to finish last in the Belmont Stakes).
Sat., Jul. 30, Grade-2 Jim Dandy, 3 year olds, 1 & 1/8 miles (Dirt)
Continuing with the theme of the three-year old male division, the big guns will be out in force for the Jim Dandy. The super-hot trainer Kiaran McLaughlin (started the Saratoga meet winning 6 of his first 8 starts) will have Mohaymen ready to fire in the Jim Dandy. After a late-charging fourth in the Kentucky Derby, Mohaymen took a well-deserved break and has been training in Saratoga at the beautiful confines of the Greentree Training Facility. Recent reports are that Mohaymen has looked much more relaxed in morning workouts at Saratoga than he had before the Derby. He will be a tough one to beat in the Jim Dandy based on the expected pace scenario, where he may get a perfect stalking trip and jump on the late closers.
The pace-scenario will be the key for likely Dandy favorite, Creator. In both of his Grade-1 Arkansas Derby and Belmont Stakes wins, he was able to take advantage of a “cooked pace” set by his stable-mate Gettysburg. The entry of Laoban in here should help keep the pace honest for closers, so there is reason to believe that Creator will be running on late again. Before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Steve Asmussen said that Creator had the ability to stay nearer to the pace from watching his training, so Creator may need to show these new tactics in this short Dandy field of only six.
The Pletcher-trained Destin is entered in the Jim Dandy after his tough luck loss by a nose in the Belmont Stakes to Creator. He will get his second chance versus Creator here! He will be a pace presence with Governor Malibu for trainer Christophe Clement (read more about Governor Malibu and interview with Clement here).
The maiden Laoban for trainer Eric Guillot will once again be a main pace presence on the front-end and may be able to set it up for closers. Why Guillot continues to enter Laoban in stakes races and hasn’t been entered in a maiden special weight to help boost his confidence is a mystery to try to solve another day!
The Dale Romans trainee Race Me Home moved late to finish a good second in the ungraded Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but it should be noted that the Belmont track was playing to closers that day. Saratoga on opening weekend was playing to stalkers and closers, so the track bias is something to continue to watch leading up to the Week 2 Stakes races.
Sat., Jul. 30, Grade-1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, 3 year old & up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)
With Runhappy still sidelined, Private Zone trying to find himself and Marking pointing to the Forego on Travers day, this field is not as star-studded as a Grade-1 for male sprinters has been in the past. Instead, we’ll have to deal with a wide-open field here that will probably end up being a very good betting race.
A.P. Indian for trainer Arnaud Delacour is a last second entry here and comes in off of three weeks rest from his impressive win in the Grade-3 Belmont Sprint Champion. With Marking breathing down his neck for the stretch run, he was able to gamely hold off that foe to his outside in a career-defining win. The quick turnaround after such a grueling race is concerning. It’s also concerning that Delacour enters here since his original target was the Forego on Travers day.
Holy Boss returns to Saratoga where he ran third in the Runhappy break-out party 2015 Grade-1 King’s Bishop. The Asmussen-trainer has not won a race since he won the Grade-2 Amsterdam for three-year old sprinters at Saratoga last year on this exact weekend. He has run against the top of the division in all of those races since, so he is indeed classy and maybe he will find his best again at one of his favorite tracks.
Anchor Down returns in this spot after an admirable second behind the Frosted freak-out of the century in the Grade-1 Met Mile. After being scratched out of Grade-3Belmont Sprint Championship on July 9, Pletcher will be asking Anchor Down to shorten up to 6-furlongs, which may not be his best distance.
The always dangerous trainer Jorge Navaro comes into this race completely loaded with three entries in Delta Bluesman (winner of four consecutive races including last-out in the Grade-2 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream), Catalina Red (winner of the Grade-2 Churchill Downs on Derby day, but disappointed in the Grade-2 True North with a fourth in last out) and Chublicious (winner of his last two in non-graded stakes).
Requite is entered for trainer George Weaver and ran second to Holy Boss last year at Saratoga in the Amsterdam. He made his 2016 debut a win at Gulfstream in a non-grade stakes on June 4.
Other entries include All Star Red for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. As said before, this is a wide-open race and will need to be a “spread” race in multi-race wagers.
Sat., Jul. 30, Grade-2 Amsterdam, 3 year olds, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)
Trainer Steve Asmussen may have a chance to sweep all three dirt graded stakes on the day with Creator in the Jim Dandy, Holy Boss in the Vanderbilt and Counterforce in the Amsterdam.
Asmussen said that he would point Counterforce to the Amsterdam right after his disappointing eighth in the Grade-2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes day. He looked like one of the top three-year old sprinters in the country after his Bachelor win at Oaklawn in April and strong second behind ultra-fast Justin Squared in the Chick Lang in May. His July 18 work (2nd best of 20) at 5-furlongs on the Saratoga main track on July 18 shows that he is primed here and may be a good opportunity for regular rider Florent Geroux to pick up his first ever graded stakes win at Saratoga.
The lightly raced Maniacal rides a two-race win streak into the Amsterdam for owner-trainer Wesley Ward. This may be too steep a step-up in class for the son of Kitten’s Joy, though.
A horse with much more back class and experience is Zayat Stables’ King Kranz trained by John Terranova. He showed he could win last out on the sloppy Belmont strip on May 6 in the non-graded Gold Fever. He got a quick rest after the race after a long early year campaign which included a second to top prospect Unified in the Grade-3 Bay Shore.
There also is some buzz around Quijote for trainer Tom Amoss, who said he would target this race after he ran second to elders at Indiana Grand last out. Quijote also ran second behind Awesome Gent in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes this winter at Aqueduct.
It’s All Relevant has been entered by Dominick Schettino and Mind Your Biscuits will go for trainer Robert Falcone.
As mentioned before, Pletcher has entered his two from the Curlin Stakes in here with Uncle Vinny and Ready Dancer.
This is another wide-open race where a new young horse may jump up on the national scene in a big way.
Sat., Jul. 30, Grade-2 Bowling Green Handicap, 4 year olds & up, 1 & 3/8 miles (Turf)
I keep a lot of notes, read a lot, listen to podcasts and radio and visit barns to get good info for these JUMP STARTS. But sometimes, I just won’t have anything clever to say about a race.
This is the case here. Flintshire will go off at odds of 1/9 possibly in this spot and may be the best distance turf horse not only in the United States, but maybe the world. His dominant Grade-1 Manhattan win on Belmont Stakes day was his first under the tutelage of Chad Brown and showed that at 6-years old that he is not slowing down. With his romping 2015 Grade-1 Sword Dancer win at Saratoga on his record, there is no reason to believe that he won’t dominate again here as a simple prep for that same race this year. He will ship up from Belmont this week, where he worked forwardly for this race. He is a “free bingo square” in multi-race plays.
This is a very small turf field with only four others entered: Twilight Eclipse, Grand Tito, Danish Dynaformer and Can’thelpbelieving. With Flintshire being such a big favorite, this is not a good betting race and a good race to just watch as a fan.
Sun., Jul. 31, Grade-3 Shuvee Handicap, Fillies & Mares 3 year olds & up, 1 & 1/8 miles (Dirt)
The Shuvee for older routing females on the dirt may feature Pletcher’s Curalina looking to bounce back after a tough Grade-1 Ogden Phipps fourth-place finish. She chased a hot early pace there off “cheap speed” and as mentioned before, the Belmont surface was not friendly to early speed on Belmont Stakes day. Curalina won the Grade-1 CCA Oaks last year via disqualification, so she has experience over the track and has proven herself here. She will be very tough to beat in this spot.
Carrumba will most likely give Curalina her toughest challenge as she comes out of a third-place finish in the Ogden Phipps. Her second place finishes to top female dirt routers Cavorting and Forever Unbridled in two of her past four races displays her class.
Others expected here include Sweetgrass and Joint Return with Innovative Idea a possible entry.
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